Elf in St Albans

If you, like us, want to escape the city summer heat for the day, head to St Albans.  St Albans is only a short drive or train ride away from London and has a beautiful village feel to it.

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With a lovely Cathedral to admire and Roman ruins to discover there is actually quite a bit to see.  St Albans also has a lovely shopping area and great food on offer, one of the most famous eateries is the Waffle House.  Be prepared to que at the Waffle House on the weekend, but once you are in there are savoury and sweet options to choose from.  I go for the salted caramel with peacan nuts….ooooo it is yumo!

We walk off our waffles wandering though the Verulamium Park, named for the Roman city outside who’s walls St Albans is built.

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Hong Kong

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The first decision when heading to Hong Kong is whether you are staying on the island or main land.  We opt for main land, because the hotel rooms are generally slightly bigger and slightly cheaper.  We decided on Butterfly on Pratt due to its easy location, it is on the main land.

First thing to know when  you arrive, is transport.  At the airport head to the information booth and get an Octopus card.  There are ordinary ones which you top up as normal and there are tourist Octopus cards, which include one or two airport line trips and two or three days of travel.  The card its self can be exchanged for 100 dollar deposit on leaving.  We opt for the three day tourist card and it is well worth the money.  The transport system is great, easy to use and very well organised.

We arrive late on our first day and head into Kowloon on the airport train, then make the terrible mistake of thinking that we would be able to walk the short distance from the station rather than try to navigate further trains. Don’t do this.  It is not a good idea!  Eventually we admit defeat and follow the signs to the transfer bus.  This is a free service that runs frequently all days of the week to the big hotels…much better idea.

imag3856-1.jpgWe spend our first morning an a free walking tour (our fav!) of Hong Kong Island.  This is a great tour with lots of interesting information about politics and the current situation in Hong Kong.  I definitely recommend this as a great starting point for your trip.

This same group offer a “jump the cue tour” for the Victoria Peak Tram.  We take advantage of this, and again I would recommend this, simply because it cut about an hour standing in the sun in a line.  The Tram is great, really is something to experience.  We then spend almost two hours walking around Victoria Peak enjoying the views, the countryside and the wildlife.  There are amazing birds of prey and wild pigs rootling around.  This is not what you would expect from Hong Kong…its cool and calm and blissful.

So ends our first foray into Hong Kong.  Bring on the rest of the trip!

More information on the Free Walking Tours

Third Stop: Townsville

Our third and final stop in Australia for this trip is Townsville.  It is actually the only Australian stop that we haven’t been to before.

Townsville is in north east Queensland and is humid and tropical.  We have the privilege of arriving after the rain so it is looking lovely and green and postcard worthy.  The old second of town and strand area is particularly pretty and worth a drive or walk around.

We visit the Palmetum is one of the three botanical gardens in Townsville and is lovely, we spend over an hour wandering around.

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Castle Hill is another great spot, head to the top for a great view.  If you are fit, try running or walking the trail path.

However, our most favourite spot (aside from the hammock) is Little Crystal Creek Waterfalls.  It is a located along Mount Spec Road between Mutarnee and Paluma and it is stunning.  Crystal clear water and wonderful landscape.  There are BBQ facilities and picnic tables, bathrooms and so on and next time we are definitely taking a picnic.  It is a great spot and our highlight.

 

Elf’s Tip: If you like curry stop at Aalishan’s Indian Restaurant, the food is really fresh and yummy.

A very Mowgli adventure

A new sort of adventure, dog friendly, countryside hotel…a very grown up weekend away!

We have hired a car, with our littlest elf snuggled up in the back seat we head off to the Cotswolds.  We wind our way though little streets ad pass through lots of lovely villages that are gearing up for Christmas.  It is a cozy delight.

We stop for a quick lunch in a lovely pub The King’s Inn.

Back in the car we head towards our accommodation for tonight.  The Fish Hotel.  The Fish boasts its own restaurant and has lots of different options for accommodation, including a dog friendly section.

We check in and drive down to the stable.  The room is wonderful and Mowgli even gets a bed, bowl, towel and treats!  The treats are a big hit.  We take advantage of the location and head our for a walk around the pond and fields.  Mowgli is in heaven.

The Fish accommodates it’s canine guests accompanied by their humans in the bar for dinner and breakfast.

In terms of dog friendly, this Hotel really is amazing.

We spend the next day we drive to Woodstock and visit the market and wander in the pretty town.  This is the home of Blenheim Palace which is worth a visit if you have time.

We hired the car though Sixt and they were great with Mowgli and would recommend them if you need a dog friendly option.

 

Mowgli had a great time, and so did we.  The Cotswolds is a beautiful location and really lovely for a getaway.  There are so many cute little places you can stop and experience something new.

Elf’s afternoon in Dublin

It has already been a week since our adventure to Ireland began. I cannot begin to describe what a wonderful place Ireland is. So friendly and so lush.

We start in Dublin with our solitary half a day to explore before we head off to the country side. So where to start? With a free walking tour of course. Everyone that knows us, knows we love a free walking tour. Just to explain a little about the idea…it’s not free. You can find this idea all of the world, sometimes run by independent companies or individuals and sometimes a company charges a marketing fee to the freelance tour guide. In all cases it is a pay what you think situation. If you think the tour is great, you pay up more, if it’s okay, maybe a bit less if you hate it…perhaps you slide off half way though.

So we joined up with a free walking tour and explored the city. We head through the streets, stopping to listen to lots of history and stories. The TempleIMAG3551 Bar area is interesting in that it is named after a sand bar that used to run through the area and the Temple family who helped to develop the area. It is now a theatrical and nightlife centre of Dublin.

Another highlight is the Dublin Castle where there has been a building since 1200s! The Record Tower is the only surviving part of the medieval castle and is at the heart of the story of Red Hugh which is well worth looking into if you don’t know it already.

The Gardens behind the Castle are a beautiful kept secret and I recommend having a look. It is peaceful and surprising to find.

Next we head to Trinity College where apparently you can sit your exams with your sword by your side.

We finish up in the early evening and wander back towards our hotel, stopping of course for a Guinness on the way. For dinner we find a pub close to us that is very popular and we share a table so that we can eat some of the best stew I have ever had!

And that’s all the time we have for Dublin this trip as the next morning we are up early and in the car to head off to Co. Meath.

 

Berlin in one day

I’m in Berlin but on a tight time schedule, I still want to experience some of what this city has to offer.  So this is what we did.

I’m lazy when I arrive at Tegal airport and opt to taxi to the hostel.  I know…lazy.

After ditching the bags, we head to Checkpoint Charlie via the U ban and S ban.

Stop 1: Checkpoint Charlie is a must for your trip to Berlin.  Head into the black box and read about the history of the boundary and the people who lost their lives here.

Stop 2: We walk 10 minutes to the next point, the Topography of Terror.  This is a centre of history, we spent our time at the outdoor information point about the history of Berlin “Between Propaganda and Terror”.  This is very well worth a visit.  We don’t have time to go inside the building but I will definitely add it to the list for a longer visit.

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Stop 3: 15 minutes on foot we arrive at our next stop, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  This is a stark and striking memorial, like nothing I have ever experienced before.  I walk amongst the stones… it makes you feel small and very human.

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Stop 4: We head on to the next stop on our walking whistle stop tour, is the Brandenburg Gate.  The Gate has been restored and attracts a crowd.  The area around the gate is lovely, and the wide road leading away from the gate is boarded by a beautiful looking park.

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Stop 5: The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building.  The Reichstag is topped by a glass dome which has a full view of the city.  I would recommend booking tickets in advance if you visit in summer.

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Stop 6: The longest walk of our foot tour, 30 minutes of strolling through the city and we arrive at our next and final stop.  Berlin Cathedral, its full name is: Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin.   Its 7 euros to get inside and 4 euros for an audio guide.

 

And we are done.

Well not really done.  Obviously there is so much more to Berlin.  We have’t stepped inside a gallery or museum.  But with limited time, I feel like we managed to get a fair amount in and it was light on the budget as well.

Also, if you come across Woop Woop ice cream…try it.  It is worth it, very yum.

 

Mowgli’s Favorite Parks

We love our walks, its a great way to get some exercise together, bond and enjoy London in a different way.  So, in honor of International Dogs Day, here are three of Mowgli’s favorite parks for walkies in London.

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Regents Park

Regent’s Park is one of the loveliest parks in central London.  We love to wander around and enjoy the beautiful gardens.  Though of course no dogs are allowed in the rose gardens.  But aside from that it is a dog friendly park with lots to explore together.

Clapham Common

Our local favorite and a very, very doggy park.  The common has both long wild grass areas and short grass for little legs.  There are lots of dogs to play with and lots of ponds as well.  We love the common.

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Finsbury Park

If you want something different, head to Finsbury Park and enjoy the old railway track walk.  there are lots of paths and places to explore. Great on a summer’s day and there is a lovely cafe in the middle of the Park which is dog friendly and does some yummy cakes and sandwiches.

 

Happy Walking!